Lot 1078. Lucio Fontana (1899 - 1968), Concetto Spaziale, Attese, signed, titled and inscribed È venuta a trovarmi / la Clara on the reverse. Executed in 1965, waterpaint on canvas, 72 by 60 cm; 28⅜ by 23⅝ in. Estimate 15,000,000 — 24,000,000 HKD (1,561,965 - 2,499,144 EUR). Lot Sold 28,813,500 HKD (2,982,903 EUR). © Sotheby's 2018
Provenance: Galerie Carrefour, Brussels
Private Collection, Paris
Private Collection, Japan
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
Literature: E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogue raisonné des peintures, sculptures et environnements spatiaux rédigé par Enrico Crispolti, Vol. II, Brussels, 1974, p. 166, no. 65 T 128, illustrated
E. Crispolti, Fontana, Catalogo Generale, Vol. II. Milan, 1986, p. 583, no. 65 T 128, illustrated
E. Crispolti, Lucio Fontana, Catalogo ragionato, di sculture, dipinti e ambientazioni, Vol. II, Milan, 2006, p. 768, no. 65 T 128, illustrated.
Concetto Spaziale, Attese
There is a spontaneous effect of ritual in Fontana’s action that has nothing at all to do with destruction but everything to do with the intention of all ritual action: to clarify what is invisible… What is concrete loses its significance as reality and what is insubstantial manifests itself as more cogently real than anything we can grasp with our five physical senses… The insubstantial, intuited space beyond the canvas, however, turns into a powerful presence that is far more physically real than the canvas. – Fred Licht
Lucio Fontana with Concetto Spaziale, 1960. Photo Charles Wilp © Photo Scala, Florence / bpk, Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin. Artwork © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Strikingly sumptuous and piercingly seductive, the brilliantly crimson-hued Concetto Spaziale, Attesse from 1965 is in equal parts passion and brutality, stillness and spontaneity, sublimity and the void. Executed at the sensational pinnacle of Lucio Fontana’s extraordinary career, the work is an archetypal exemplar of the artist’s iconic tagli (“cuts”) series rendered in its most coveted and sought-after colour – the two highest auction records for the series belong to his red paintings. At once impassioned and graceful, the vivid scarlet canvas is wholly charged with the connotative energy of Fontana’s revolutionary gesture; as each slash penetrates the evenly painted surface, the profound darkness of the plunging black recesses forcefully articulates the artist’s quest for “the Infinite, the inconceivable chaos, the end of figuration, nothingness" (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Lucio Fontana, 1999, p. 198). Fresh to the market, the present work amalgamates Fontana’s commitment in materialising his ground-breaking Spatialist philosophy and stands as testament to one of the most decisive breakthroughs in the history of art.
Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting, Red, 1952, Addison Gallery of American Art, Philips Academy, Andover, MA / Art Resource, NY © 2018 Estate of Ad Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Fontana’s iconic rupture of the picture plane in his tagli paintings, first implemented at the end of 1958, constitutes a seminal redefinition of the conception of space. Indeed, its creative inception was articulated much earlier – as early as 1946 when Fontana penned his artistic treatise, Manifesto Blanco. There, Fontana proposed the concept of Spatialism, which sought to articulate the fourth dimension by instigating a radical dialogue between technology and the very ‘dimensionality’ of painting. In this quest, Fontana proposed the artist as the source of creative energy, anticipating future events and engaging with technological advancement; asserting that the artist’s work should aspire to enlighten ordinary people to the possibilities offered by their environment and society. Fontana’s innovative conceptual creed expounded upon the theories of earlier Italian futurists, such as Umberto Boccioni’s declaration, “Let us open up the figure like a window and close within it the environment in which it lives.” Echoing this sentiment in Manifesto Blanco, Fontana remarks, “Futurism adopts movement as the only beginning and the only end” (Lucio Fontana, "Manifesto Blanco," cited in Enrico Crispolti, Lucio Fontana Catalogo Ragionato, Vol. II, Milan, 2006, p. 19).
Alberto Burri, Rosso Plastica, 1964, Private Collection / Bridgeman Images © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
As Fontana enacted these radical statements in the creation of his Concetto Spaziale series, his blade ineluctably ruptured the still face of the picture plane in pursuit of a new frontier of painterly process – in the process achieving immediate repute for what would become the most radical and categorically ground-breaking artistic gesture of recent art history. Each cut was made with a single gesture using a sharp blade, with the canvases then backed with black gauze to give the appearance of a void behind. The present work comprises a majestic progression of assured incisions traversing across a pristine scarlet canvas that rupture the picture plane with an explosive force – the mark of Fontana’s blade encapsulating elegance, simplicity, and vitality with each deliberate puncture. In their ritualistic gestural bravura, Fontana’s cuts open up the canvas’s sculptural possibilities while making a singularly unique mark against the increasing focus on action and performance art building in Italy during 1957-58; particularly, Yves Klein’s first exhibition of saturated monochrome paintings in Milan in 1957 and a retrospective of Jackson Pollock’s violently splattered canvases in Rome in 1958.
Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attese, 1965, waterpaint on canvas. Sold: Sotheby’s New York, 11 November 2015, lot 8, sold for US$ 16,154,000.
The series continued from 1958 to 1968; and in the 1960s in particular, Fontana’s practice of breaking through the canvas into a heretofore unexplored territory gained a sublime relevance alongside concurrent advances in space travel. During the time, the ‘Space Race’ had established the moon as the next frontier for human exploration and dominated the global political zeitgeist. As such, Fontana’s revolutionary conceptual and artistic pursuits paralleled such ground-breaking scientific paradigm shifts: just as Yuri Gagarin broke through the atmosphere to reveal the void behind it, Fontana broke through the picture plane and irrevocably changed the course of art. To this end, the telleta (the strips of black gauze positioned behind each cut) are as central to the interpretation of Fontana’s tagli works as the narrow slits themselves, implying the blackness of space and the insurmountable nothingness of the cosmological void. Fontana was explicit with regard to the relevance of the cosmic explorations of his era to his art, and confident in the implication that his actions had for the course of art history: “The discovery of the Cosmos is that of a new dimension, it is the Infinite: thus I pierce the canvas, which is the basis of all arts and I have created an infinite dimension, an ‘x’ which for me is the basis for all Contemporary Art” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Lucio Fontana: Venice/New York, 2006, p. 19).
While Fontana’s victorious overturn of dominant aesthetic dogma of Renaissance spatial reasoning constitutes a radical schism with canonical art history, the indisputable tension between unity and rupture, beauty and brutality, transcendent serenity and unspeakable violence in Concetto Spaziale, Attese simultaneously invokes the most traditional remit of Western art: the devotional framework of the Catholic Church. In their wound-like appearance, the five lacerations of the present work are unmistakably cuts wrought by a human hand; this perception is enhanced by the ineluctable smoothness of the pulsating red pigment that saturates the canvas, seeping from the dark caesuras in a contemporary echo of the wounds of Christ on the cross. Significantly, mirroring the Christian message of salvation through sacrifice, it is only by enacting violence upon an unblemished surface that Fontana achieves access to a new and unknown dimension.
Sotheby's. Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Hong Kong, 31 Mar 2018, 07:00 PM